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WikiLeaks: How Kibaki allies blocked talks

NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 24 – President Mwai Kibaki\’s inner circle had stalled the power sharing talks in early 2008, according to the latest US diplomatic cables released by whistleblower website WikiLeaks.

The cables claim that in meetings held between the then American Under Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer and the President, his allies blocked an initial joint statement between the President and Orange Democratic Party leader Raila Odinga to call for an end to violence.

The cables sent to Washington by American Ambassador Michael Ranneberger, claim that although "President Kibaki was unopposed to it Karua (Martha) and (Raphael) Tuju nixed the idea arguing that it would give the appearance of a "co-presidency."

"Ms Frazer asked that Kibaki and Raila issue separate statements condemning violence, acknowledging there were real problems with the elections, and agreeing to dialogue," says the cable.

This proposal for separate press conferences came after the joint one was opposed by the President\’s handlers.

Ms Frazer noted that the statements "would help heal and normalise the country \’the most immediate need\’ and are exclusive of the issue of how the parties will actually come to a political arrangement on governance."

However the cable reports that President Kibaki expressed doubt that Mr Odinga truly wanted peace and said he was a man who spoke in "two languages" – something he saw as a significant obstacle to dialogue.

"These statements of cessation of violence never took place and the violence continued way to the end of the month."

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The first face-to-face meeting of the two political rivals came two weeks later on January 24.

Matters were complicated further when President Kibaki announced a partial Cabinet even as pressure was building for him to meet Mr Odinga to discuss the possibility of a government of national unity.

In a meeting held on January 7, President Kibaki argued that he was not pre-empting talks and that he only announced the partial Cabinet to keep the government running.  That it was only "logical" to do so, he said.

In the end, President Kibaki said that he was open to changing Cabinet positions if this was decided during talks with ODM, along with having the talks deal with a broader range of issues such as electoral and institutional reform, the cables claim.

After intense negotiations with President Kibaki and his team, it was agreed that he would issue a statement explaining why he appointed a cabinet when he did, clarifying that the cabinet was subject to change pending outcome of talks with ODM, and noting that nothing would be ruled out in these discussions.

It is at this time that the President\’s inner circle once again blocked a second statement that could have healed political wounds.

"Francis Muthaura, Secretary to the Cabinet, and the newly appointed Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula fought the idea of issuing a public statement clarifying the Cabinet appointments, but Kibaki was decisive in wanting it done; the statement was issued the following day," notes the cable.
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